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Wendell Carter Jr fights Andre Drummond for a rebound. Photo from chicagobulls.com

Not a great week for the Bulls (1-2 in week two, 2-4 overall for the season), but they ended with a win against the Detroit Pistons and have shown some improvement on both offense and defense.

Rock Bottom:

I think we can safely say the Bulls have officially hit rock bottom this season. With losses to the New York Knicks (105-98) last Monday night, and the Cleveland Cavaliers (117-111) on Wednesday, the Bulls have managed to botch the easiest portion of their schedule by losing to some of the worst teams in the NBA. The good thing about rock bottom, there’s only one direction you can go from here.

It will be a hard slog back from the bottom for the Bulls, the next couple weeks feature games against the L.A. Lakers, Houston Rockets, Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks. There might not be many wins in the foreseeable future, but that doesn’t mean we should be discouraged. There have been signs of improvement on defense, and players are starting to hit there shots on offense.

Adjustments: In an effort to improve play, Jim Boylen has tweaked the player rotations, staggering the minutes of Lauri Markkanen and Luke Kornet, and making some other minor improvements to player combinations. While the idea of two bigs that can stretch the floor with their shooting is intriguing on paper, and poses incredible match up problems for opposing teams, the reality of the Markkanen and Kornet pairing proved too much a defensive liability for the Bulls. They averaged a little more than 6 minutes of combined floor time per game, but managed to be a -3.8 in plus/minus; that’s the 9th worst plus/minus out of all 2 man combinations of Bulls players that have played together this season*.

-Side Note: the two man combination of Markkanen and Zach LaVine is the 4th worst plus/minus this season at -5.3, and that combo plays 23 minutes per game. Only LaVine and Tomas Satoransky (25 minutes, -0.3 plus/minus) play together more than Markkanen and LaVine.

–Side Side Note: The only 20+ minute two man combination with a positive plus/minus is the pairing of Satoransky and Otto Porter Jr. They average 21.3 minutes per game together and are a +2.3.

*All +/- stats are taken from NBA.com

Trending Up, MVP of Week 2: Wendell Carter Jr

This was kind of a tough week to pick an MVP. There weren’t any stand out performances or players the last three games, so I decided to go with somebody who gave consistent production throughout the week. That player was Wendell Carter. He had 20 points and 10 rebounds against the Knicks, 15 and 8 against the Cavs, and he finished the week with a 16 points, 11 rebounds performance in the win against the Pistons. Carter appears to be rounding into game shape after spending much of the summer and preseason recovering from injury. He hasn’t spent much time on the basketball court since he got injured halfway through last season, but his consistent play this past week gives me hope that he’s turned a corner and is ready to contribute as the primary Bulls center.

Carter has started to find his groove on the offensive end of the court. He’s constantly beating the opponents down the court and winning position under the basket with his speed. He is playing better in the post, using an assortment of moves to get past his defender and score. Even his touch around the rim has shown some slight improvement, but most importantly, he is staying out of foul trouble. As teams continue to out-rebound the Bulls, Carter still has some work to do on the glass and with his game overall. That being said, it was a pretty good week for Wendell, full of positives he can build off of.

The MVP runner up this week was Thaddeus Young, who played well off the bench for the Bulls. He posted 15 points, 4 rebounds, 1 block against the Knicks. 14 points, 5 rebounds, and 1 steal versus the Cavs. And Thadd finished the week by stuffing the stat sheet against the Pistons: 8 points, 9 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 assists, and 1 block. Not too shabby.

 

Looking ahead:

The Bulls have four games this week, starting today (Sunday, Nov. 3rd) with a contest against the floundering Indiana Pacers.

-The Pacers have gotten off to almost as rough a start as the Bulls (2-3). With star player Victor Oladipo still recovering from the ruptured quad he suffered last season, and bigs Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner day-to-day nursing mild injuries, Indiana has struggled to win games in the early going. But if there is anything this nightmare of an opening two weeks has taught the Bulls it’s that there are no sure victories in the NBA. LaVine, Markkanen, and Carter better show up and show out if the Bulls want to beat this struggling perennial playoff team.

-Tuesday, November 5th, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and the rest of the 4-1 Los Angeles Lakers come to Chicago. This is going to be a full test of the Bulls mettle, and we can only hope one, or both, of the Lakers superstars decide to take the night off. It’s not impossible, the Bulls might beat the Lakers on Tuesday night, it’s just very, very, very, very improbable.

-Wednesday, November 6th, the Bulls play in Atlanta, and get there first regular season glimpse of the up-and-coming Hawks. 2-3 on the season, Atlanta is missing it’s dynamic point guard, Trae Young. Young will have an MRI done on his ankle after injuring it a couple nights ago. He is expected to miss several weeks worth of games, including this upcoming match against the Bulls. Even without Young, the Bulls can’t afford to look past the Hawks. They still have a dangerous core of eager stars-in-the-making featuring John Collins, Cam Reddish, De’Andre Hunter, and Kevin Huerter, and there is the real possibility for a revenge game from Free Agent acquisition and former Bull, Jabari Parker. If Bobby Portis can catch the Bulls with the Knicks, why not Jabari with the Hawks? It’s also the second game of a back-to-back on the road; The Bulls better watch themselves.

-The Bulls finish their week at home against the 3-2 Houston Rockets. The reunited duo of James Harden and Russell Westbrook have been just as devastating as advertised. The Bulls three guard line up and blitzing pick-and-roll defense will have their hands full trying to corral two of the best ball-handlers in the game. I’m not expecting the Bulls to win this contest, but just like the Lakers, it should be a good measuring stick to see how well they stack up against some of the best in the NBA.

Bulls Win Share Leaders:

1. Wendell Carter Jr 0.6

2. Lauri Markkanen 0.4

3. Otto Porter Jr 0.3

Bulls +/- Leaders:

1. Wendell Carter Jr +1.2

2. Otto Porter Jr, Tomas Satoransky +0.5

3. Coby White -0.2

Until next time, thanks for reading and GO BULLS!